Just when you think they’re out, the Patriots come back and win......again.
For the third week in a row the story was the same with a different team. Down by double digits in the second half, a combination of talent and perhaps a little luck on a late onside kick got the Patriots past the Cleveland Browns with a 27-26 win to improve to 10-3.
With the ball for nearly two-thirds of the first half, the Browns could only muster up two field goals on the first drive of the game and early in the second quarter.
The closest the Patriots came to entering the red zone in the first half was on their third drive of the game. After converting on a Tom Brady pass over the top to fullback James Develin for 31 yards down to the Cleveland 29-yard line, an incomplete pass, an illegal shift penalty, and a sack pushed the Patriots back to the 37-yard line where they would punt with 10:22 left in the half.
The Patriots defense finally broke in the third quarter when a 40-yard pass from Jason Campbell to an open Gary Barnidge resulted in a touchdown with Aqib Talib unable to get up in time to make the stop on Barnidge.
Things went from bad to worse on the next drive when Rob Gronkowski was able to make a 21-yard reception but went down after a hard hit by T.J. Ward to the tight end’s knee. Gronkowski was carted off the field and sent to the hospital for observation.
The Patriots finally got on the board with 1:41 to play in the third quarter with a 33-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski after an 11-play, 68-yard drive.
Josh Gordon’s 88 yard reception and the extra point with 1:25 left in the game locked up the game as the team expected to do little was quite the opposite.
The Patriots refused to die as Brady found Shane Vereen for a 50-yard pass down to the Cleveland 22. Setting up in the shotgun with three wide receivers, another pass to Vereen across the middle was good for an additional 16 yards.
On his third play in a row, Vereen cut the lead to 10 on a six-yard touchdown run on an inside handoff with six seconds to play in the third quarter. The two-point conversion was no good but a defensive holding call gave the Patriots a second chance at the try.
The second attempt was good after a pass to Edelman.
A 50-yard field goal by Gostkowski was good with 5:43 left in regulation and cut the lead to five but the Browns however, appeared to lock up the game with a four-yard touchdown reception to Jordan Camerson with 2:39 left in the game.
But like past weeks, the Patriots would not go down, scoring on a two-yard pass to Julian Edelman with 1:04 left in the game.
Needing an onside kick recovery to have a chance to win, Kyle Arrington kept the Pariots’ offense on the field at the Browns’ 40-yard line with 1:04 to play.
After recovering the kick a 10-yard pass to Danny Amendola took the Patriots down to the 30.
On the next play, the Browns shot themselves in the foot with a defensive pass interference call in the end zone against Leon McFadden to put the Pats at the 1-yard line.
A short pass to Amendola on the right and a two-point conversion pass to Amendola gave the Patriots their first lead of the day with 31 seconds to go.
To the joy of many at Gillette Stadium, a failed 58-yard field goal by Browns kicker Billy Cundiff ended the game and the most improbable of comebacks in a season of improbable comebacks.
Below are game notes provided by Patriots Media Relations:
PATRIOTS WIN 10 FOR THE 11TH STRAIGHT SEASON
New England has reached at least 10 regular-season wins for 11 consecutive seasons, joining San Francisco (16) as the only teams to accomplish the feat.
BELICHICK ADDS TO NFL RECORD WITH HIS 11th STRAIGHT SEASON OF 10 WINS
Bill Belichick has coached the Patriots to 11 straight seasons with 10 or more wins, adding to his NFL record streak. In 2011, Belichick became the first coach in NFL history with nine straight seasons with at least 10 victories. The win over Cleveland extended his record to 11 straight seasons of 10 wins. George Seifert has the second most consecutive 10-win seasons with eight from 1989-1996 for San Francisco.
VEREEN SETS TEAM RECORD FOR REC. AND REC. YARDS BY A RUNNING BACK
Shane Vereen had 12 receptions for 153 yards, setting single-game franchise records for most receptions and most receiving yards by a running back. Vereen’s 153 receiving yards topped the 53-year-old franchise running back record of 124 receiving yards, achieved by Dick Christy against the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 4, 1960. Vereen’s 12 receptions topped the previous Patriots running back record of 11 receptions, achieved three times, most recently by Kevin Faulk on Nov. 3, 2000 against Tampa Bay. Vereen’s previous single-game receiving bests were 91 yards receiving at the New York Jets on Nov. 22, 2012, and 8 receptions, achieved twice, most recently against Denver on Nov. 24. The NFL single-game record for most receiving yards by a running back is 213, achieved by Kansas City’s Curtis McClinton on Dec. 19, 1965. The league’s single-game record for most receptions by a running back is 17, achieved by the New York Jets’ Clark Gaines on Sept. 21, 1980.
VEREEN IS THE FOURTH RUNNING BACK TO POST 150 YARDS RECEIVING IN A SINGLE GAME IN THE LAST 10 SEASONS
Brain Westbrook - 156 in 2004
Jahvid Best – 154 in 2010
Shane Vereen – 153 in 2013
Matt Forte – 151 in 2010
PATRIOTS OWN THE NFL’S TOP DECEMBER RECORD SINCE 2001
The Patriots have an NFL-best 47-6 record in the month of December since the 2001 season. New England has now won 17 of its last 18 December games. The Patriots are now 24-2 at home in December since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002.
BELICHICK IS GOOD IN DECEMBER
Bill Belichick is 49-8 (.860) in December with New England, the best record in December among head coaches with one team in NFL history (min. 25 games). George Seifert is second (27-6, .818).
PATRIOTS WIN AT HOME IN DECEMBER
The Patriots improved to 23-2 in the month of December at home at Gillette Stadium since the stadium opened in 2002. .
PATRIOTS HAVE THE MOST OVERALL WINS AMONG THE ORIGINAL 8 AFL TEAMS
The Patriots have passed Oakland for the most wins overall among the among the original eight AFL teams.
BRADY IS FIRST TO BREAK 300 YARDS AGAINST BROWNS IN 2013
Tom Brady’s 418-yard performance is the first time a passer has broken the 300-yard passing mark against Cleveland in 2013.
BRADY IN THE SECOND HALF THE LAST THREE WEEKS
Tom Brady has thrown for over 200 yards in the second half in the last three games now after throwing for 323 yards in the second half against Cleveland. It is the first time in his career that had has had three straight games with at least 200 yards in the second half. Brady put up 263 yards after halftime against both the Broncos and the Texans in the previous two games. Brady was 25-of-33 for 323 yards and two touchdowns in the second half against the Browns. In his last three games, Brady is 67-for-89 (75%) for 849 yards, 6 TDs and 0 interceptions for a 127.5 rating in the second half.
GOSTKOWSKI EXTENDS STREAK TO 104 STRAIGHT GAMES WITH AT LEAST ONE POINT
K Stephen Gostkowski had two field goals and an extra point and has now scored at least one point in 104 consecutive games to extend a franchise record.
GOSTKOWSKI IS THIRD IN NFL HISTORY FOR MOST CONSECUTIVE EXTRA POINTS
Stephen Gostkowski is third in the NFL for most consecutive extra points in NFL history.
BRADY RECORDS 58th CAREER 300-YARD GAME
Brady threw for 418 yards for his 58th NFL game with 300 or more yards passing and his fifth of the 2013 season. It was Brady’s third straight 300-yard game and his fourth in the last five weeks. His 300-yard game total ranks third among active NFL quarterbacks, behind NFL-leader Peyton Manning (82) and Drew Brees (75). The Patriots are 48-10 when Brady throws for 300 or more yards.
BRADY THIRD STRAIGHT GAME WITH 300 YARDS PASSING
Tom Brady had his third straight game with 300 or more passing yards, after having thrown for 344 yards against Denver on Nov. 24 and having totaled 371 yards at Houston on Dec. 1. Brady’s personal record for most 300-yard games is five straight in 2009. Brady has thrown for 300 or more yards four times in the last five games, also having totaled 432 yards against Pittsburgh on Nov. 3. In the last five games, the only time Brady did not have 300 or more yards was at Carolina on Nov. 18, when he had 296 yards.
BRADY REACHES 20 TOUCHDOWNS
Tom Brady had a pair of touchdown passes against Cleveland to raise his 2013 total to 21 touchdowns. Brady has thrown 20 or more touchdown passes 11 times in his career.
GOSTKOWSKI HAS 22 STRAIGHT FOURTH QUARTER FIELD GOALS
Stephen Gostkowski has made 22 consecutive fourth-quarter field goals, including a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter today against the Browns.
GOSTKOWSKI 200 FIELD GOALS.
Stephen Gostkowski’s 50-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was his 200th field goal for the Patriots, joining Adam Vinatieri (262) as the only players in Patriots history with 200 or more field goals.
STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI HAS 13 40+ FIELD GOALS IN 2013;
Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 50-yard fourth-quarter field goal and now has 13 field goals of 40 or more yards in 2013 to set a team mark for most field goals of 40 or more yards in a single season. Adam Vinatieri had 11 field goals of 40 or more yards in 2004 and 1998 and Gostkowski had 11 such field goals in 2012.
The Patriots have been scoring fourth quarter points at torrid pace in 2013, putting up 129 fourth-quarter points through the first 13 games, including 16 fourth-quarter points in their comeback against Cleveland.
STRONG PLAY FROM NINKOVICH
Rob Ninkovich sacked Jason Campbell for a 5-yard loss on third down in the fourth quarter on Cleveland’s first possession following the Patriots’ first touchdown, keeping momentum on the Patriots’ side and forcing the Browns to punt holding a 19-11 lead, and setting up a Patriots field goal drive that cut the Cleveland lead to 19-14. Additionally, Ninkovich stopped Chris Ogobonnaya for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1 in the second quarter, forcing a Cleveland punt on the next play, and pressured Campbell on second down in the fourth quarter, forcing Campbell into committing an intentional grounding penalty that set up third-and-17.
TOM BRADY LEADS FIFTH COMEBACK OF 2013, TYING MOST IN HIS CAREER
Tom Brady engineered his 41st career game-winning performance to lead the Patriots to a victory following a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. Brady has achieved the feat five times this season, and has turned the trick in three consecutive weeks. Brady’s five such performances in 2013 tie the most in a regular season in his career, joining the 2003 season. Brady had four regular-season game-winning performances in 2007 and 2005.
BRADY HAS FINAL MINUTE, GAME-WINNING TOUCHDOWN PASS
Tom Brady threw a 1-yard scoring pass to Danny Amendola with 31 seconds left in the game to give the Patriots a 27-26 lead. It is the sixth time in Brady’s career that he has thrown a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the game to turn a Patriots deficit into a Patriots win. Brady also achieved the feat earlier this year in New England’s 30-27 win over New Orleans on Oct. 13, when he threw a touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left. This season marks the first time in Brady’s career that he has achieved the feat twice in one season.